Is War an Inevitable Part of Human Nature?

First and foremost, we appreciate the opportunity provided to us to be a contributor to your preliminary research on war and human nature. The annotated bibliography we have put together are reputable sources from varying media outlets including podcasts, videos and articles.
We wish you the best in your writing process and hope the references we provided will assist you in the best possible way. Where applicable, useful definitions have been included above their relevant sections. We have striven to include proof to support both sides of this complicated and important discussion. We touch on anumber of topics, including the history of humanit adn war, the disease of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as evidence of how warfare can be stoppped.
Thank you,
Erin, Amina, Jay and Serge.

An Introduction and The History of War


War: A contest between nations or states, carried on by force, either for defense, or for revenging insults and redressing wrongs, for the extension of commerce or acquisition of territory, or for obtaining and establishing the superiority and dominion of one over the other.

Haidt, J. (2012). The righteous mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion. Vintage.

In this chapter of Johnathan Haidt’s book, he describes the moral foundations that people base their political beliefs on. He include discussion of what these foundations actually are, how they developed, and what their consequences are for people political beliefs. The five foundations Haidt discusses are: the care/harm foundation, the fairness/cheating foundation, the loyalty/betrayal foundation, the authority subversion foundation, and the sanctity/degradation foundation. Haidt provides interesting insight into the development of morality in humans, and while this pertains to the subject of the article in a general, of most interest to you in regards to the history of warfare among humans is a passage on page 10. In this passage, Hiadt describes war-like tendencies found by anthropologists in chimpanzees. This will be a useful starting off point for your discussion on war’s history, as it indicates that war pre-dates the beginning of our species.

Green, H. [CrashCourse]. (2014, Nov 24). Aggression V. Altruism: Crash Course Psychology #40 [Video File]. Retrieve from

This video give a great overview of information about the psychology of conflict and selflessness. In particular, in uses both theory and examples to explain under what circumstances people tend to act in their own self-interest, and when they act in the interest of others. This video will help you gain a general understanding of the topic of the psychology of war, and provides evidence that both support and refutes the claim that war is an inevitable part of human nature. In particular interest to you, is the 8:13 to 9:37 mark of the video onward, as this portion of the video discusses conflict on a large scale, and how psychological phenomena on an individual level can lead to large scale conflict and war. This source is informative, as well as trustworthy, as the CrashCourse series is backed by the PBS Corporation.

Prejudice and Discrimination: The Effect of In-Groups/Out-Groups

In-Group: A group to which individuals see themselves as belonging

Out-Group: those people who do not belong to a specific in-group.

Green, H. [CrashCourse]. (2014, Nov 17). Prejudice and Descrimination: Crash Course Psychology #39 [Video File]. Retrieve from

This video discusses the existence and consequences of discriminatory and prejudicial attitudes and actions. It explains the nuances between prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination, as well as the the interconnected nature of the three concepts. The video also pays special attention towards implicit bias, and how large conflicts can result from arbitrary divisions between groups of people. Of particular interest to you is the 3:30 – 3:40 mark, as this section of the video examines examples of how individual instances of the psychological phenomena of prejudicial attitudes and discrimination have led to side scale war and conflict. Also of interest to you with be the 7:29 – 8:50 mark, as it provides an explanation and discussion of the ingroup/outgroup phenomena, and how it contributes to wide scale conflict. This source is informative, as well as trustworthy, as the CrashCourse series is backed by the PBS Corporation.

Sternberg, R. J. (2005). The Psychology of Hate. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

This book examines the psychology of hate, and how it leads people, individually and in groups, to commit atrocious actions. It gives an interesting explanation of how, psychologically, people grow to hate others and, when this hate reaches a wide enough scale, wars are started. Of particular focus is wars that involve instances of genocide. If particular interest to you will be the section “The Evolution of Hate”, which starts of page 59, as this section explains the psychological process groups and individuals go through which leads them to abusive and genocidal behaviors. This section also delves into real-life examples, both relatively current and historical, of this theory in action. For example, it delves into the experience of “shared hatred” which motivates terrorist organizations (page 60). This source is trustworthy as the author, Robert J. Sternberg, is an accomplished academic, highly recognized in the field of cognitive psychology.

Hedges, C. (2003). War is a force that gives us meaning. New York: Anchor Books.

The introduction begins with a quote from Plato: “Only the dead have seen the end of war”. The author first-hand experience and acquired knowledge, makes his work relevant to our project because of the insights provided of the dynamics of war (and effects of war) at all levels. As a correspondent for The New York Times - and other publications - activist and ordained Presbyterian Minister Christopher Hedges has covered wars all over the world. In 2002, he shared a Pulitzer Prize for his work on global terrorism. The author of 14 books, he's no stranger to controversy, having once been escorted off stage while delivering a commencement address. Chris Hedges Pulitzer Prize winner Christopher Hedges spent decades as a war correspondent before the suffering he witnessed became too much to bear. Now he is minister of social witness and prison ministry at the Second Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth, New Jersey, a popular public speaker, an author and freelance columnist who does not shy away from controversy.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Veterans Affairs Canada. 2014. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and war-related dress. Article.

PTSD is a psychological response to events and experience of extreme trauma, particularly when a person’s life is being endangered or threatened. PTSD can affect those of any age and gender with ranging from extreme responses to minor. Post-traumatic stress disorder has been brought up consistently in recent years but the disorder has been around for centuries dating back to Ancient Greece. In the American Civil war it was known as “soldier’s heart; in the first world war it was called “shell shock”; and the second world war it was known to be “war neurosis”. Post-traumatic stress can be seen as normal when dealing with intense experiences. With the majority of people, the stress of intense experiences reduce or disappear over a couple of months, mainly due to the help and care of family, friends and social workers. With others, such as victims of war crimes and veterans, the stress can last a life time with symptoms at a extreme causing many problems to their health and affecting their lives. Why some people are affected more than others doesn't have a simple answer. However in Canada it is estimated that up to !0% of war veterans, including those who served and peacekeeping forces, will go on to experience this chronic disorder for the remainder of their lives, while others will experience symptoms to a lesser extreme.

What are the Symptoms for PTSD?

PTSD can be characterized into three main groups of focus. The three classes are under the headings of avoidance, intrusive and arousal symptoms.

Avoidance/Numbing Symptoms

The reminders of their traumatic experiences are unpleasant and lead to considerable amount of distress and pain. People with avoidance symptoms often try to avoid situations, people, or events that may remind them of their traumatic experience. People often do not think about or talk about what happened. They attempt to cut themselves off from the pain by isolating themselves from society. Family and friends are also withdrawn from in a attempt to forget about the event that caused their traumatic stress. This can also cause feelings of not being belonged to the rest of society and eventually no longer taking part in activities where they used to enjoy dearly. Such reactions may cause depression, feelings of isolation and problems with friends and family.

Avoidance/Numbing Symptoms:
avoiding any reminders of trauma (people, places, activities, conversation, thoughts and feelings)
gaps in memory
losing interest in activities
feeling detached
feeling numb inside
difficulty imagining their future (thought of suicide)

Intrusive symptoms
Intrusive symptoms occur when an individual believes that the memories, smells, images, sounds and feelings of the traumatic event will “intrude” into their lives. Individuals may remain in the traumatic event never moving on that they find it difficult paying attention with what’s happening in the present. Sufferers will often report the distressing memories. Stating that they have nightmares every time they sleep or are constantly reminded of their terrible memories. This is referred to as flashbacks or reliving the events. They may become distressed and show physical symptoms of sweating, increased heart rate, loss of focus and muscle tension when reminded of the memory.

Intrusive symptoms:
memories or images of the incident
frequent nightmares
mood swings (becoming upset when reminded of the event)

Arousal symptoms
Before traumatic events, majority of individuals see the world as a safe and free place to live in but, this may be shattered by the experience. After the event these people may be “turned in” to threat meaning they believe its always there. As a result, they become jumpy, on edge, scared and constantly on guard. This can lead the individual to becoming over protective, overly alert and unable to focus on daily tasks because they're always trying to seek out danger around them making individuals easily distracted. Many Veterans feel as if they were abandoned, let down and judged by others. They may have a sense of mixed feelings of betrayal and happiness when seeing friends and family when they return home. The feelings of betrayal often lead to anger and bitterness to others and society. Some may only express this anger verbally while others are violent physically to property and people, even those closest to them. The power of their anger often can be frightening and uncontrollable. Often after these outbursts of anger they no longer feel remorse to those they hurt afterwards.

Arousal symptoms:
sleep disturbance
anger and irritability
concentration problems
constantly seeking out danger
easily startled

War Veterans and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

H. W. Chalsma. (1998). The Chambers of Memory. Book, Scotts Library.

This books gives the reader an inside look at the sorties and memories that veterans of the Vietnam War went through. PTSD is very simple in term, whereas the actual human experience of the devastating impact of psychological trauma, whether it is from war trauma, child abuse, or any other traumatic experience, creates a disturbance in ones behaviour and causes the individual to lose themselves as a person. With the Vietnam War ending in the Spring of 1973 soldiers and war prisoners were returned home to reunite with their family and loved ones. With the average age of eighteen to nineteen years old, it was a lot to take in at such a young age. Serving for your country, ten thousand miles over seas and spending approximately thirteen months in a foreign country, it was fare amount to handle. Returning home, many had flashbacks and terrible memories of their traumatic experiences. As the reader you will also see actual response to questions asked by the author and his team, for example, how does it feel to be back in the world (society)? Where veterans such as Alan, S would reply, “If you try to say it never happened it will come back and it will disable you. In other words—how can I say this? How tenacious we are that we believe the lie until we know the truth. We are like that, the human race s like that. But that’s what happens to you. A lot of people would rather believe the lie than the truth, and I’ve that the truth may hurt. But you're better off knowing the truth… I can’t say that Vietnam never happened”. Dealing with trauma such as the memories of war is hard not to remember let alone to forget. With the scars to your body and mind individuals find it extremely difficult to return home as the man or woman they first left as. they're scared physically and emotionally by the images and experiences of war.

PBS now (2012). Veterans of PTSD:

In this PBS video, you get an inside look at how Veterans of previous wars deal with their traumatic experiences. PTSD doesn't capture the full devastation of what the trauma does to a person. It fails to show what happens to a persons behaviour and personality when they go through these dramatic experiences and have to deal with them afterwards

Treatment for PTSD

Frank M. Ochberg. (1988). Post Traumatic Therapy and Victims of Violence.
Orchberg focuses on the therapy for victims of violence and addresses primarily to those who have gone through extreme experiences of violence, pain and death. His goal is to provide understanding and therapy to those who are victims of traumatic experiences and those who have love ones who are lost within the event. Orchberg states that: “to treat the wounds of these survivors (Vietnam War) the therapist must understand the history and culture as well as the psychology”. When a person goes through a traumatic experience such as the Vietnam war, his normal psychological equilibrium is upset. Ochberg refers to Freud and what he calls the traumatic neurosis. The traumatic neurosis demonstrates very clearly and focuses on the fixation or the root of the traumatic occurrence. To treat and potentially cure a persons PTSD, specialists need to traumatic neurosis to be at a balanced state so that the patient can return to their normal behavioural state. This can take years to accomplish but dedication and with help of friends and family this is truly possible.

To donate, participate and volunteer with any programs to help veterans with their traumatic experiences please visit any of the following websites:, and

Can We Ever Stop?


In Flanders Field

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
- Canadian military doctor Major John McCrae.

This poem elegantly expresses the deep regret that follows war and the loss which comes from it. Though not an academic source, it is far from unique in its theme among literature and other forms of art. This may act as informal proof of how war may not be a part of human nature, and would be an interesting stylistic addition to your article.

War is a Drug

Hedges, C., & Kennedy, P. (2014) Podcast. War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. Ideas with Paul Kennedy, CBC Radio. Podcast retrieved from

Chris Hedges, American journalist, activist, author and war correspondent gave a talk at Ryerson University titled War is a Force That Gives us meaning, explaining how and why people go to war. He mentions an important matter between 9:00- 13:10 of the talk— he describes the feeling of being in the war-zone, which he says is drug-like, an ‘out-of-body experience’, which is similar to the feeling one receives from a synthetic drug. He refers to this out-of-body, hyperaware experience, and adrenaline rush as a “combat high”. He provides interesting insight as to why people return to the war-zone when they cannot adjust to the reality back home where everything is dramatically different.

The Democratic Human

Allport, G. W. 1. (1960). Becoming: Basic considerations for a psychology of personality. —. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Why do people continue to go to war? Why are revolutions sparked? In a more non-deterministic approach, Gordon Allport explains human personality in his book “Becoming: Basic considerations for a psychology of personality”. By refuting the idea that human beings behaviour follows a deterministic, mapped set of behaviours, or that we are only influenced by our desires, and the three components of the mind as Freud proposed, he suggests a more voluntaristic human personality. Relating to war and human nature, Gordon Allport concludes his book with his chapter on “Psychology and Democracy”. This is especially important to you as it will explain the reason behind many wars and revolutions— which is to strive for a more idealistic concept of democracy. Gordon Allport is a famous and influential psychologist, especially known for his contribution to personality psychology.

Military Support- How is it obtained?

Cheung-Blunden, V., & Blunden, B. (2008). The emotional construal of war: Anger, fear, and other negative emotions. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 14(2), 123-149. doi:

In a study performed not too long after the 9/11 attacks, Violet Cheung- Blunden, a psychology professor at the University of Carolina and Bill Blunden,  College of Health and Human Services at San Francisco State University, seek to explain action-tendency emotions, specifically fear and anger. Referring to page 123-149, the focus and hypothesis of their study is made clear. They studied over 500 college students ranging in age, ethnic, religious and political backgrounds at different times after the 9/11 attacks. They specifically focused on fear and anger, and the tendency to act based on these emotions. Their study is particularly important as it highlights an essential aspect to gaining public support for military missions— which is manipulating the emotions involved with action tendencies. “The results are discussed in the context of frustration–aggression, fear tactics, dimensional and discrete views,as well as classic literature on war.”

The Bi-Polar Ape

The Leakey foundation is founded after Louis Leakey, an early anthropologist and archaeologist famous for his field research on primates. This video made by the Leakey Foundation discusses two opposite sides of the spectrum— the loving and affectionate vs. the aggressive human. This short film draws viewpoints from scholars in the field such as Richard Wrangham, primatologist who served as a professor in Harvard University; Steven Pinker, experimental psychologist and cognitive scientist who is also a professor in the Psychology department at Harvard, and Professor Frans de Waal, primatologist, ehologist and author of various books. This interesting video includes many of the concepts we have mentioned, and provides an interesting conclusion to the nature of humans with regard to war and violence.

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